Deep Listening is a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening in the moment without trying to control it or judge it. We let go of our inner clamoring and our usual assumptions and listen with respect for precisely what is being said.
For listening to be effective, we require a contemplative mind: open, fresh, alert, attentive, calm, and receptive. We often do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process; we often see listening as a passive, static activity. In fact, listening and a contemplative mind is open and vibrant yet spacious, and it can be cultivated through instruction and practice.
As a classroom practice, deep listening requires that students witness their thoughts and emotions while maintaining focused attention on what they are hearing. It trains them to pay full attention to the sound of the words, while abandoning such habits as planning their next statement or interrupting the speaker. It is attentive rather than reactive listening. Such listening not only increases retention of material but encourages insight and the making of meaning.
Meditation on Sound: Instruction
Try to sit stable and still, like a mountain. Be relaxed and alert. Close your eyes.
Listen to the sounds as they occur.
Do not imagine, name, or analyze the sounds. As names arise, release them and return to the sounds.
Just listen with wide-open awareness.
Let the sounds come to you and touch your eardrums.
As thoughts, emotions, memories, associations arise in your mind, notice them, gently let them go, and return to the sounds.
You might think of the difference between radar that goes out looking for something and a satellite dish with a wide range of pickup capacity that just sits in the backyard, waiting. Be a satellite dish. Stay turned on, but just wait.
– Sylvia Boorstein
Notice how the sounds arise and fall away.
Do not grasp at sounds.
Do not reject sounds.
If there are no sounds, listen, and rest in the silence.
After the exercise, ask: In your daily life notice the positive and negative habits you might have in your approach to
listening. What helps you to listen fully, without judgment?
If you are in a place that is very noisy, how can you help yourself? Must you find a quieter place or wear earplugs? Or can you be with these sounds in a different way?
In conversation, we are often so focused on projecting our opinions and defending our agenda that we fail to hear the voices of others. This tendency is why contemplative dialog and deep listening practices challenge the way we normally engage in conversation. These practices rely on a commitment to self-control and self-awareness, as well as a group-centered rather than self-centered approach.